Are You An …
Emotional Projectile Vomiter???
I was having a conversation with a colleague this mornign and it turned to the concept of “Emotional Projectile Vomiting” … a unfortunately common human exchange.
Let me take you back a bit in our dialogue first (the one I was having with my colleague Mark) …
The Thalamic-Cortical Pause
The concept of the thalamic pause played a significant role in the “Null-A” science-ficition novels of A.E. Von Vogt. The thalamic pause is about stopping when there is a limbic response to attend to the sensory data that is present, and likely linked to and generating the limbic response.
Okay … okay … yes, Mark and I are “MythoGeeks” (i.e.: a reference to folks who are trained in and use the MythoSelf Process as a means to attend to their experience and manage their perceptions, thinking and behavior).
I’ll put it into simpler English for the non-MythoGeeks.
The thalamic pause (or thalamic-cortical pause) that Korzybski’s work points to is a reference to experiencing an emotional response that is generated in the limbic system due to data in the environment that is experienced and perceived.
The data could be sensorial, such as something you see or hear like the sight of a large werewolf roaring while it runs to attack you, or it could be informational like something you read or hear that creates an internal response as you process it, like a “Dear John” note, or your lover telling you that they’re leaving you for a goat they just met recently.
The specific data is not relevant, it’s the limbic, i.e.: emotive, response that Korzybski and Van Vogt point to in reference the thalamic-cortical system.
The challenge for most people is that the emotive response is faster than thinking can be, and by the time they kick in thinking it is at the very least colored by their emotive repsonse … or worst they only begin thinking after they have already responded behaviorally.
In other words people often act without thinking based on purely emotional reasons that actually have nothing to do with getting them the outcomes they want.
Emotional Projectile Vomiting
One of the ways people react is via Emotional Projective Vomiting … a particularly disgusting, and common, human behavior.
So here’s the case …
Someone has an experience they upsets them, e.g.:
- someone cuts them off in a line they’re waiting in
- someone grabs the last grapefruit from the display
- their lover says something they don’t want to hear
- someone offers a political opinion you disagree with
- someone has the wrong color skin or calls G-d by the wrong name
- … or, or, or … ad infinitum …
Someone does something that you don’t like … so you respond with Emotional Projectile Vomiting …
It’s really that simple … someone does something you don’t like and you spew emotional vomit all over them.
It could be something agressive that you do … e.g.: saying something nasty to them, giving them a dirty look, punching them in their face …
It could be a more passive aggressive response … e.g.: giving them the cold shoulder, using the silent treatment, withholding sex …
It doesn’t matter how you express it, the end result is that you’ve emotionally vomited on them.
This is the equivalent of a thalamic-cortical breakdown, where the emotional response overrides the ability to choose wisely and well. Yet this is also the most common way people respond when their emotions are pricked.
Interrupting the Thalamic-Cortical Breakdown
So what Mark mentioned is that he’s seen me repeatedly “just let things go emotionally” … meaning that he’s seen me have a response, pause and move on, even though he’s recognized that I didn’t like what just happened, or the news I received.
“Of course I just let things go that I can’t control or do anything about … there’s nothing I can do about them that would be useful … so the only sane choice is to move on.”
It’s not that I don’t care … it’s that I’m able to make the distinction between what I can change, and what I cannot.
I can also make the distinction between what’s about me, and what’s about others … and I let them keep their shit. I don’t take their shit on me, primarily because if I did it would upset me and I’d have to emotionally vomit to rid myself of the upsetting input.
When I can do something that makes a difference I do … and I act immediately. Then I move on to the next thing. I don’t linger on what I’ve done, either in regret or rejoicing – that’s like emotionally chewing cud (maybe something for another posting …).
Taking Control of Your Emotions
Here’s the trick …
To move beyond Emotional Projectile Vomiting (or the thalamic-cortical breakdown) you must attend to the Sensory Data AND the Sensory Experience you’re having in response to it.
Attending to the sensory data is about noticing what’s really going on, i.e.: somebody said something (NOT the content but the fact that something has been said), that they used a particular tone of voice, that they looked a particular way when they said it, that they gestured in a particular way … blah, blah, blah … THE SENSORY STUFF!!!
This takes external sensory acuity (something we work extensively with to enhance in the MythoSelf Process work we do, what we call Situational Awareness). Most people are incapable of noticing more than the most trival and obvious information because they are untrained.
Although most people “look” few actually “see” to paraphrase the brilliant deductive detective Sherlock Holmes.
Instead of noticing and attending to the information that is present and available, one molecule of information sets most people off emotionally and their sensory systems shut down.
One of things that we emphasize in MythoSelf Work, more than is written about by Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is remaining present and aware in real-time to the emergent data … i.e.: noticing what happens as it’s happening, not after the fact, and responding in real-time as well.
This about “calibrating” … “tracking” … and ultimately “adumbrating” information as it’s emerging, and moving sympathetically and empathetically in response to the system-at-large (this is the basis for wellformedness, or being both structurally and functionally wellformed as we discuss it in MythoSelf Process training).
Sensory experience is about noticing your internal sensorial response to any given situation you’re experiencing. This is about internal sensory acuity … and it’s the basis of establishing a thalamic-cortical pause (something we spend even more time on in MythoSelf Process work than on external sensory acuity).
To create a pause between your emotional response and acting based on it without thinking (a thalamic-cortical pause), you need to learn to separate the emotional experience from the sensory experience you’re having about it.
Whenever you have an emotional experience you are having body-based sensations associated with it. The ordinary knee-jerk reaction to these sensations is to associate them with emotional meaning … and immediately, subsequently emotional judgement for most people.
There is an integrated body-based set of sensations you typically experience as “being angry” … and another set of sensations as “being joyful” … and so on and so forth with each set of sensations and emotions you experience.
When “someone makes you angry” the typical response is to link a judgement about their actions to them, i.e.: “they’re being a jerk” … yet what actually occurred is that you responded to their behavior in a particular way, that generated a particular set of sensations in you that you label anger … and you accuse them of causing them!!!
Every sensation you have is yours … and, “no one can make you have a sensation if you don’t let them.”
In order to control the sensations you have, you need to own them, and claim them as your own … you need to step up the game you’re playing and take responsibility for your emotional responses … otherwise you give the keys to your emotional kingdom away to whomever choose to push your buttons!
This is the part almost no one likes … i.e.: the taking responsibility that they create every emotional response they have … and no one can make them have their emotions.
Taking Thalamic-Cortical Control
Well … I could go on and on about this stuff, but suffice it to say that you get to choose …
You can either begin taking stock of your sensory experience, separating the emotional response from the sensory response and learning to attend to your sensory response and controlling it … or you can continue Emotional Projectile Vomiting everytime the world doesn’t show up the way you’d like it to …
Attending to and notcing your sensory responses means recognizing that emotional labels for your experience have specific sensory forms you experience bodily as well, e.g.: when you’re angry you may begin to clench your fists (I do!) … and simply unclenching them begins to disapate the anger substantially.
With enough practice you can begin to notice the onset of the emotions you about to be having at a body-based level, i.e.: as your body begins to respond to the limbic signals, and you can create a pause and unwind the limbic override of your thinking.
Taking control of your emotions does NOT mean not having your emotions!!!
Instead it means recognizing them for what they are, i.e.: body-based sensations, that are in response to some data in the system that you are experiencing …
AND, THEN MAKING GOOD CHOICES ABOUT HOW TO USE YOUR EMOTIONAL RESPONSES TO GET THE OUTCOMES YOU WANT ON YOUR OWN AND WITH OTHERS!
When you do take control of your emotional responses, and make high-quality decisions about what action to be taking, you are likely to get some surprised responses from folks around you.
One of the things that may happen is that you will be seen as “robotic” and “in-human” to them as you stop your Emotional Projectile Vomiting.
Forgive them …
Think about it … how could someone live with themselves if they are constantly presenting others with their Emotional Projectile Vomiting and have to accept it’s not “just human” to be out of control and spewing all over others???
So the only explanation they can have for you, which allows them to remain at peace with themselves (if you can call it “peace”) is to make you into an in-human monster because you’ve begun to see the world a bit more clearly than they …
All the Best,
Joseph Riggio, Ph.D.
Architect & Designer of the MythoSelf Process and SomaSemantics
PPS – Another good (and really accessible) book about General Semantics and learning more about taking control of your life is: “Drive Yourself Sane“ by Susan and Bruce Kodish (here’s the link: Drive Yourself Sane @ Amazon.com).